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Dog walking is how your pup gets out of the house for a while.
Does their business, helps you exercise: the whole nine yards.
But it’s more than just bathroom breaks and sniffing the ground. It’s a lot more than that. We’re going to delve into why dog walking is so important, and how you might benefit from changing up your habits.
You can actually improperly train your dog during routine walks, or undo training that you’ve paid a professional to try and instill in your dog. Behavior is hard to change, but if you’re walking your dog the right way, you can help control and mold it. Let’s see just how to do that.
Importance of Good Exercises for Dogs
Dogs can develop heart issues as they age, and there’s nothing better for them than continuous exercise. In fact, for every facet of life, exercise will only help them: weight maintenance, weight loss, joint upkeep, and more.
Broken down piece by piece, these are the main benefits of good exercise for your dog.
Heart health is one of the biggest concerns with any and all dogs, no matter what the breed is.
Walking regularly throughout the day is the number one way to help your dog’s heart health. Regular exercise has proven to extend your dog’s life; why not make it a regular thing?
Going to the park and going on extensive jogs will help.
Dogs can get anxiety, and it doesn’t take much – some light trauma could be enough to set them off. If you’re getting a dog from a shelter or one that has a history with an abusive owner, then you might find that they’re a bit skittish around strangers or in your home in general.
Going on consistent walks can help with this, since exercise is linked to a serotonin boost in the brain, which can help combat the symptoms of anxiety.
Joint Health and Development
Your dog’s joints need to be optimized for play. Exercising regularly allows them to play with you and alone in the yard without having to slow down (all that much) as they age.
Every dog is going to slow down as they get older, but by protecting their joints with regular exercise, you can ensure this doesn’t happen as a result of pain from deteriorating joints. This should be paired with a joint supplement for the best results.
Walking Your Dog is More Than Just Exercise
To your dog, this isn’t just exercise. You see the benefits of it for their health, but they don’t – they see fun, excitement, and just run off of instinct. They enjoy it, and that’s it to them. However, there are some other reasons that they’re important.
Of course, your dog is going to need to use the bathroom while they’re outside. That’s where they do their business.
You can’t deny them this, so it’s important to know here that if you’re trying to train them and ensure they don’t lead you during a walk, giving in to them stopping for a bathroom break isn’t a sign of weakness.
It’s showing kindness and fulfilling a need. Besides that, it reinforces that they’re doing a good job by doing their business outside.
Dog Sniffing Out Other Dogs
This is perfectly normal. It’s a social behavior that you should not restrict your dog from partaking in.
Dogs often sniff or lick other genitals, and while we as humans immediately perceive this as something terrible or something we should apologize to the other owner for, this is normal. It’s encouraged.
Sniffing is the most common way that dogs get familiar with another pup in the area. This allows them to understand what this dog smells like, and if the dog is not a threat, it lets them know that the next time they pick up this particular scent.
Socializing With Other Dogs
Believe it or not, dogs are very social creatures. Not just with us, either – they need to be able to mingle with other dogs!
Many casual dog owners will stop their dog from socializing with another dog during a walk, but this is a great opportunity to recharge your dog’s social battery.
Socializing with other dogs on a recurring basis, whether it’s doggy play dates or trips to the dog park, will actually get your dog to stop harassing you so often to play with them.
If you feel like they’re constantly bored or trying to roughhouse, they might just be lacking socialization, and this could be the perfect way to take care of business.
Preventing Excessive Sniffing and Pulling
We talked about your dog sniffing other dogs, which is totally fine, but if they sniff objects for too long, they’re considering marking it as their territory. While there’s nothing wrong with this inherently, it will make walks take longer, which can be frustrating to us owners.
Some dogs will be so into sniffing whatever is around them, that they’ll pull on their leashes when you try to gently lead them through the rest of the walk.
To prevent them from doing this, you can use a harness to better lead them. Explain to them that they have to stop what they’re doing so that they become familiar with the vocal commands, and then follow through with the action to stop them from doing it.
At all points during your walk, your dog has to know that you are in charge. You hold the leash, you designate where you go, and that’s that.
It’s important to hold firm control of the leash, and to not pull or tug on the leash. If you’re using a collar, it could seriously harm their necks. If you’re using a harness, you don’t want to exhibit unnecessary force even though it won’t cause them pain.
For more on collars versus harnesses, let’s take a look at how they’re different, and what you should be using on your next walk with your dog.
Collar vs. Harness
Collars can be great for showing other people that your dog is owned by someone so they don’t call animal control on a stray, holding onto ID tags or an ID medallion, as well as holding your dog to a leash if they’re tied to a post while you go into a store or something along those lines.
But apart from those things, it’s not really a solid choice anymore. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that shows us dogs can hurt themselves and receive lifelong injuries from tugging on leashes with collars instead of leashes with harnesses.
Harnesses provide some stellar benefits:
They Teach Your Dog to Stay by Your Side
Dogs should not walk in front of you for any reason, meaning that you’re probably letting them run the show right now without even realizing it.
They feel like they’re in control of the walk, which could be why they pull on the leash in the first place. Harnesses keep them next to you with their anchor points.
They Don’t Punish Your Dogs
A leash on a collar can potentially strangulate your dog. They operate on instincts instead of training sometimes, so if they pull too hard, they can actually cause serious injuries to themselves with reckless abandon.
A harness pulls evenly on their chest to disperse that force, even though dogs will still pull, and doesn’t cause them bodily injuries. They’re extremely effective at keeping your dog from hurting themselves.
Your dog doesn’t want to be uncomfortable on their walk for any reason.
Padding along the inside of the harness actually helps your dog stay comfortable, although they sometimes need to be assisted with keeping cool under there, depending on the breed and their coat thickness.
When to Use a Head Harness
Head harnesses are not an aggressive piece of apparatus for your dog. Many people equate them to masks or muzzles, and assume the worst instead of realizing the benefits for specific dogs. I don’t mean particular breeds – I mean on a dog-by-dog basis.
First of all, a more affectionate name for this is a head halter. These are used for the following reasons, and should only be used if absolutely necessary.
When Your Dog Needs Direction
Is your dog constantly distracted and not listening to you while out on walks?
You’re not alone – this happens to a lot of owners. It’s usually during the training process for shelter pets that you’ve adopted, ones that didn’t really have any training or direction in the first place. It should not be tugged on, but used to gently guide your dog.
Helping Dogs With Anxiety
Dogs can suffer anxiety. We commonly think of dogs being used to help an owner’s anxiety, but they’re not exempt from developing anxiety of their own as well.
It’s caused by many factors, but the root cause isn’t really the issue right now – you want to keep their eyes on the objective, whether it’s a walk or training, and not let them focus on the world around them. These work similar to horse blinds when you use them properly.
Why do a lot of people vilify head harnesses?
Because it looks like a medieval contraption. It doesn’t look comfortable, and it doesn’t look like any dog is wearing it for any purposes other than preventing them from attacking someone (even though that’s what a muzzle is for, but ask the regular person to spot the differences).
Apart from that, it’s also perceived as something that only bad owners use.
There is credible flak around head harnesses – a bad owner could use these to seriously injure their dog, even worse than if they were wearing a collar. There’s reason to be suspicious of it, but as you see here, it’s mostly used for training and/or helping dogs that suffer from anxiety.
Training Your Dog to Walk With You
Your dog should be walking with you, not in front of you. There’s a big difference here and it can make or break every walk you take with your dog.
If your dog walks in front of you, as if they’re leading, then you have to stop what you’re doing and stand still. Command your dog to stand by your side, and until they do (even if you have to physically move them to show them how), that’s what you have to do.
Some walks are going to take longer, but until your dog knows what to do right away, you’re going to want to practice this.
If your dog refuses, then you refuse to walk. Yes, dog walking is important, but you are the one holding the leash, and you are the one in control. Don’t condition them to believe they decide what happens.
Tips for Making Your Dog Calm Down
Is your dog super excited on walks?
That’s good. It’s important to have enthusiasm for their own athleticism, but it’s easy for them to get carried away, even when you don’t realize it. Eventually, the pulling and tugging become standard because of how overexcited they are.
It’s okay to bring them down a notch to help them stay calm and give a chill vibe to your walk. Here’s how to do it.
Pick a Better Time
Do you notice that your dog is always bugging out on walks, but you don’t really know what could cause it?
If they’re calm at home, then it’s different on their walk, it could just be the time of day. There could be more cars, more pedestrians, or a peak of energy in an energetic environment.
Go on walks during slower traffic times, less visitors at the dog park, and things like that. They might just need a less energetic environment throughout the duration of their walk to help them calm down.
Relax the Leash (and Keep it Close)
A tight leash is going to keep your dog on edge. You can consider a harness mix with a retractable leash to give you the best ability to keep your dog close, but still keep some slack on the leash.
This is going to require some leash training, but with a harness, you can also help them with their energy levels so that they aren’t pulling on you repeatedly.
Consider a Dog Trainer
Dog trainers aren’t cheap (the good ones, at least), but they’re infinitely useful. A dog trainer can help teach your dog to stand down and lower their energy solely based on commands, looks, and demeanor.
A dog trainer is going to provide tough love to your dog to achieve the best results in as little time as possible. That means they’ll be kind but firm, allowing your dog to get their energy out, and showing them how they are supposed to act, normally through positive reinforcement.
Dogs are still animals – they base a lot of behavior off of an alpha hierarchy system, and not all owners know how to command behavior from their dog properly. A dog trainer will also give you information on how you can appear more domineering to your dog.
Are you taking your dog to the dog park every single day?
No wonder they’re amped up. You can’t do this on every single walk, otherwise when you grab the leash, you’re saying “We’re going to run around and chase sticks.” It’s just not sustainable.
Try not passing by or going to energetic destinations on walks. You have to teach your dog to behave properly regardless of what they’re doing.
Through giving treats and showing praise/affection, you can train your dog to do just about anything. The funny thing is, this also works with humans. Who’s going to want to do their best and listen to someone else if they’re brought emotional or physical misery?
Nobody. It’s not how you get anyone to follow you, it’s not how leaders are supposed to operate. You offer praise, kindly suggest corrections, and supply positive reinforcement through a means of motivation (for your dog) to perform the way you want to.
What do you think employee bonus incentive programs are?
The exact same thing, but with more complex goals instead of a treat or a pat on the head.
Dog Walking Isn’t as Easy as Everyone Thinks
Socialization, exercise, roaming the streets (on a leash)—these are all important reasons why you should be walking your dog all the time. Each breed of dog responds to walks differently, and some might need just a little more attention than others.
Take your time to make sure they have a good regimen down. Are they exercising enough? Are they gaining or losing weight? Are they over-excited when they see other dogs, or just the right amount of excitement?
It’s a tough balance between proper socialization, exercise, and care, especially on those days where taking the dog for a walk feels like a chore (we’re all been there once or twice).